Parents seeking to improve Desert Trails Elementary say opponents altered documents in an effort to defeat the petition to force change at the campus.
By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/xtiFxS
February 29, 2012 :: Parents battling to improve their struggling Mojave Desert school charged Tuesday that opponents had illegally altered documents in a campaign to defeat their petition to transform the campus into a charter school.
At a Los Angeles news conference, parents from Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto presented evidence that at least two documents ostensibly revoking support for the petition had been doctored. Their attorney, Mark C. Holscher, said he had asked the San Bernardino County district attorney to investigate the alleged fraud.
Last month, parents submitted the petition under the state's pioneering parent-trigger law, which allows parents of at least half the students at a failing school to force changes in staff and curriculum, close the campus or convert it to a charter school. Parents turned in petitions representing 70% of the school's 666 students. But the school board rejected the petition last week, saying parents of 97 students claimed they had been misled and rescinded their signatures; those rescissions and other petitions that were found to be invalid drove the support below the required legal threshold.
On Tuesday, however, petition supporters said they had regained their majority after examining all documents of parents seeking to revoke their signatures. They said they found that at least 27 had been inappropriately counted, including those missing signatures or signed by someone who had not signed the original petition. In two cases, parents said they had signed the document to remove their signatures without checking off any boxes as to why, but the boxes were filled in on a duplicate copy.
At least one parent said she had been misled into revoking her signature. Rosa Bracamontes, whose daughter is in fourth grade, said she knowingly signed the original petition asking for a charter school. But about a week and a half ago, she said, she was approached outside the school by people she had never seen before to sign a paper to "save the school."
"I had no idea what it was," she said. "They just told me that it was to save the school, so I signed it."
Those involved in the rescission effort, including the California Teachers Assn., the Adelanto District Teachers' Assn. and Chrissy Alvarado, a parent leader opposed to the parent trigger petition, denied any wrongdoing.
Alvarado said parents were being told the parent-trigger law does not allow rescissions, a position taken by Parent Revolution, the L.A.-based group that lobbied for the parent-trigger law and trained parent petition supporters. But the Adelanto school board and the state Board of Education say the law is silent on the issue.
Holscher said he would pursue legal action if the Adelanto school board does not approve the petition at its meeting Wednesday. Board President Carlos Mendoza, however, said the board would not act on the issue because it had not been placed on the agenda within the legally required time period. He said the board could call a special meeting or wait until its March 6 regular meeting to take up the issue.
Assistant Supt. Ross Swearingen said district officials have determined that their staff did not alter any documents and that any fraud investigation would be handled by the proper authorities.
●● smf's 2¢:
- OK, if someone has altered legal documents on purpose, that’s a felony.
- Folks who say “the parent-trigger law does not allow rescissions” are blowing legal smoke; the parent trigger law is silent on rescissions. The parent trigger law doesn’t allow line-dancing on the Sabbath either.
- While we’re there, the school has 666 students. Revelation 13:18. The Number of the Beast: Six hundred, three score and six. What would Rich Santorum say about that?
- Note that the whole rigmarole went down in Adelanto.
- Note that the press conference took place in Los Angeles.
- Note that the jurisdiction of the court is in San Bernardino.
- Is it about the kids, or media markets or the billable hours?